Sunday, October 3, 2010

No Religious Test

          Article VI of the Constitution includes a No Religious Test Clause: no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. As part of Article VI, the clause is part of the original constitution, preceding the First Amendment, which gets much more attention. At the time of the constitution's drafting, the no religious test clause set a brilliant and original idea of government. The clause contrasted with the history of European nations and the practice of the early states, where religion was a qualification for public office and the religion of the ruler reflected the religion of the majority. 
          President Obama's religion does not qualify or disqualify him for public office. Unfortunately, the president has been forced to spend considerable time describing and defending his religious beliefs. This week, the president described his Christian faith at a discussion that was supposed to focus on the economy:

"I am a Christian by choice" ...
"I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead," Obama said. "Being my brothers' and sisters' keeper. Treating others as they would treat me. And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility that we all have to have as human beings."
Humans are "sinful" and "flawed" beings that make mistakes and "achieve salvation through the grace of God," the president continued, adding that we also can "see God in other people and do our best to help them find their, you know, their own grace."
"So that's what I strive to do," Obama said. "That's what I pray to do everyday. I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith."

          It is time for voters to stop focusing on whether Obama is a Muslim or a Christian. The House Republicans' new Pledge to America requires that every bill have a citation of constitutional authority. This is a good time for everybody to make a public pledge to Article VI of the constitution, citing and defending the proposition that religion is not a qualification or disqualification for public office.

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